Strange and Difficult times
April 1st, 2020
These are strange and difficult times and a reminder that so much of what we do with old cars – be it racing, road trips or standing around and blethering – is done with others. Social proximity rather than distance. Let’s hope we can get back to it all before long. In the meantime, events we have been looking forward to have been postponed or cancelled. It’s a shame for those who put them together and those who planned to attend. Let’s hope many can be rearranged.
It started with the Members’ Meeting at Goodwood. Andy Prill called and asked if he could race my early 911. A bit forward, you might think, but he’s an old friend and has kindly put me forward for drives in the past. I was happy to help. He also knew the car from a previous ownership. It’s an early chassis in light blue – much the same as the marketing material for the event. We added green bumpers and yellow towing-eyes in a nod to the Duke’s daffodils. It’s all about the details.
The car needed a mechanical refresh, having not done much more than light road work in recent years. I need to thank another old friend, Steve Monk of Bodywerkes, at this point. On went new disks and calipers, brake lines and a master cylinder along with bigger anti-roll bars front and rear. And a new exhaust manifold and silencer. Inside, we fitted a fixed-back Recaro sports seat and a modern harness. The car came back from the rolling road with 175 bhp – not the biggest number ever seen, but more than enough for a competitive drive. I was looking forward to my first race as an entrant! It wasn’t to be.
Peter Auto had already postponed the start of this season’s 2-Litre Cup due a week later at Paul Ricard. The Dix Milles  meeting is now scheduled for the end of July. Oh well, the timetable was a bit tight anyway. I had planned a road trip to Scotland a week after Paul Ricard. I intended to do it in the light blue car to illustrate just how versatile an early 911 can be. From the race track to the best roads in the country. There were a handful of us – what could possibly go wrong? Okay, file that under non-essential travel and forcibly closed cafes, restaurants and bars. I feel for the proprietors and their employees. It’s tough for those trades and others.
So, no racing or road trips, but what about standing around and blethering? Someone suggested we should take some cars to the reconvened Classics at the Castle in Hedingham. It’s a lovely event and a nice idea. I thought I could take the same car yet again and bore on the subject for hours. You can probably imagine. But that wasn’t to be either. Hedingham was cancelled too. What a shame. There is talk it may not happen again – I do hope that’s not the case.
All of this left me wondering what we could do. One answer is research. It can be done in isolation. Indeed, it's been argued that it has to be done under those conditions, with no noise, or the threat of it, to distract. Quite right. There’s nothing more off-putting when checking a chassis number than someone poking their head round the door to ask if you have remembered to take the rubbish out. Sorry? Newton discovered calculus while working from home during the great plague.
Research is about reading books and so on, but it’s also about dealing with people over email or the phone. Many are very generous with their time and knowledge. In other cases, one feels they are less than forthcoming for a reason. Then there are the pompous and the self-important who say you’re not asking the right question, or it’s in a box that’s hard to find or they are not sure they can trust you! Actually, all of that and more came from an individual responsible for an archive of interest to many of us. It’s possible we’ll never see it. It was baffling and unsatisfactory at the time, but it’s since been overtaken by non-events.
So, when might normal service resume? It’s a guess, of course, and one that will quickly be outdated, but, for now, it looks like the second half of the year at the earliest. As I write, we are waiting to hear about Le Mans Classic. The contemporary 24 Hours race has been shifted to September. Maybe that is as good a guess as any for a more general resumption of events? If so, perhaps we'll go back to Goodwood for the aptly-named Revival. A magical step back in time, as it says on the tin. It will certainly feel like it by then.
Robert Barrie